Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 15, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 14:1-14. This will mark our third Sunday focusing on this text, and yes, I know that eventually we will need to move on, but there is a lot of good stuff crammed into these few verses. And with this in mind, now would be a good time to remind all of you to take your time when reading the Word. Many of you are attempting to read the bible in one year, and that is wonderful, but remember, it is not a race. Our ultimate goal is not to read the Bible in one year. Our ultimate goal is to be sanctified by the Word. To be changed by the Word. To live by the Word. The Apostle Paul in writing a letter of encouragement to Timothy and says to him in 1 Timothy 4:15, “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Let us immerse ourselves in hearing and doing the Word of God. So with that said, let us read our text today, pray, and then examine it.
Today we will focus our attention on verses 7-11, but before we get too far into them, let us briefly review. John 14 takes place the night of Jesus’ arrest that leads to his crucifixion. This dialogue occurs in a location that is commonly known as the “Upper Room.” The parties that were a part of this intimate time in the Upper Room were Jesus and his disciples. During this time, Jesus showered them with teaching. If I were to guess, it would have been like drinking from a fire hydrant, and our text today somewhat points to this reality.
The disciples were having a difficult time connecting the dots of what Jesus was saying and it was producing anxiety, and Jesus could see this in their eyes and encourages them to have faith in God, faith in Jesus, and faith in the plan. Specifically, faith in the plan that Jesus was leaving them so that he could prepare a place for them in the presence of God. The way in which Jesus would prepare this place was to die upon a cross, thereby making atonement for their sin. For as we saw last week, the cross of Christ is the only way in which sinful man can be in the presence of a Holy God. As Jesus says in verse 6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Therefore, it does us no good to beat around the bush, the there are only two ways to live: 1) repent and believe in Christ, thereby receiving forgiveness and reconciliation to God or 2) Live life your way, without Christ and spend all eternity in Hell. Every man must choose.
Show us the Father
This leads us this morning to verse 7 and 8. In verse 7 we see Jesus opening up a somewhat new thought, the knowledge of God and the seeing of God. “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip upon hearing this statement regarding seeing God, lunges for it and blurts out in Verse 8, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Why did Philip do this? Why did he, upon hearing “have seen him” grasp for it? I think the answer lies within the context. Jesus, the rock upon whom they had built their life upon for nearly three years, was about to leave them. The weight of this reality was more than they could bear. To help you understand their troubled hearts, perhaps think of how one feels sitting next to a hospital bed knowing that your loved one is about to die. Questions in your mind would swirl about your ability to handle their absence.
Philip was looking for a spiritual pick-me up. He was looking for strength. He was grasping for solid ground prior to the storm. He believed that if they could just see God, it would give them the necessary faith that would allow them to endure the upcoming departure of Jesus.
Last week, if you recall, we took a moment to thank God for Thomas and his ignorance, but now, let us take a moment to thank God for Phillip as well. For Phillip's lack of recognizing who was standing before Him, causes Jesus to teach upon the greatest truth in all the Universe, the Trinity.
Lets begin by thinking about the concept of seeing God. First, what is God? In John 4:24 Jesus tells us that God is Spirit. What does that mean? In the context of John 4 it means that God is not some tangible being. He is not creaturely. In the Old Testament, we can see this comparison in Isaiah 31:8 where it says, “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.” This idea of God being Spirit can perhaps be further understood in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” If I were to ask you to draw the wind, you could not do it. You could merely draw the effects of the wind. Likewise, you can not draw God, for He is Spirit.
This concept of a God who is unseen, has already been stated in the Gospel of John. John says in John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God.” Jesus himself says it in John 6:46, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” John reinforces this understanding in a letter he wrote, in 1 John 4:12, John says again, “No one has ever seen God.” And it is not just in John that speaks to this truth. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:17, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”
Some of you may now say, what about Adam and Eve? Didn't they see God in the Garden of Eden? In Genesis 3:8 it says, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” What is interesting about this passage is the the word walking in Hebrew is “halak” which means to come, to move, to proceed. It is actually used in Genesis 2:14 to describe the flow of the Tigris river “And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows (halak) east of Assyria.” So walking in your translation does not necessarily mean legs and feet. It simply could mean that God was moving in the Garden and they heard His coming. What is even more interesting in Genesis 3:8 is the the phrase “cool of the day.” This is perhaps better translated “wind of the day.” In fact, my guess is that all your bibles have a footnote by the word “cool” that tells you that it is actually the Hebrew word for wind.
However, some of you say, but wait, didn't God speak with Adam and Eve about their sins, how could he do that if he was just wind moving? Well that is exactly how he did it with Job. Job 38:1 says, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind.”
The closest anyone has ever come to seeing God while alive was Moses in Exodus 33. Exodus 33:18 says, “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Upon hearing this, you may think that the Bible is contradicting itself. Didn't Moses just see God? No, not really. What is taking place in Exodus 33 is what is called anthropomorphism. This is the practice of assigning human traits to God. Traits such as a face and a back. God does not have those things, for he is Spirit. What God said was that he would have His goodness pass before. His face would represent his full gory and his back, a lessor degree. This occurrence was not seeing God, for even God said in verse 20, “for man shall not see me and live.” Moses lived through this event, so we know that he did not see God, but only a degree of his goodness.
You Still Do Not Know Me
So back to Philip, what he was asking was quite significant. However, not necessarialy uncommon. My guess is that if you asked anyone on this planet whether they wanted to see God, they would answer yes. However, no one who has ever existed has ever seen God, the Father. Which makes what Jesus says next even more striking.
Look at verse 9, “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” Philip asked to see God. Jesus responds with disappointment and states, “you still don't know me.” Seeing God and seeing Jesus are the same.
If you recall, back in John 1 we are told about Philip's conversion. John 1:43, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” After Philip started to follow Jesus, Philip told Nathaniel that they had found the long waited for Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and Nathaniel responded, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” To which Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
I find it so interesting, that Philip encourages Nathaniel to come and see Jesus, yet Philip three years later still does not see Jesus clearly. For Jesus says in verse 9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Philip does not fully understand who he is having supper with that night. Jesus is the full revelation of God.
Up until Jesus was born, all that humanity had known about God was what he revealed to us through his Word. God is a God who spoke. He spoke to Adam and Eve. He spoke to Noah. He spoke to Abraham. He spoke to Job, He spoke to Moses. He spoke the prophets. But this changed when Jesus took on flesh. The author of Hebrews nails it, Hebrews 1:1, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature “ The exact imprint of God. Exact. The Greek word of exact imprint is charaktēr (khä-räk-tā'r) Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines charaktēr as the “precise reproduction in every respect.”
Isn't this what Jesus is saying in verse 9. Philip, you want to see God, look at me and you will see all of God. I am God on display. Jesus was again making himself perfectly equal to God.
This is the central theme of the Gospel of John. Think about how he begins this Gospel, John 1:1 “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What is John saying? He is saying the same thing as the author of Hebrews and the same thing that Jesus is saying in John 14:9. That Jesus is the full revelation of God. Full of the grace of God, full of the truth of God. Nothing lacking.
And in verse 10 of our text this morning we see the crux of the issue, “Do you not believe.” Once again, the way that Jesus frames this question is that all of his disciples are expected to believe this. Followers of Jesus should have this reality that Jesus is the manifestation of God locked in. This is Christianity 101. Jesus is not just some teacher. He is not just some prophet. He is the full radiance of God's glory.
And what is the evidence of this claim? Look at verse 11, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” The first basis is that Jesus says so. For these men who have left everything to follow Jesus, who trust him with their lives, the words of Jesus should be enough. If he says that he is the perfect display of God, that his statement should be enough.
But if it is not, Jesus encourages them to walk down memory lane. He wants them to think about all that we have been through together. Turning water into wine, the healing of thousands, casting out demons, walking on water, calming storms with a command, catching large fish, knowing the thoughts of men, teaching with authority that was unprecedented, the feeding of thousands, raising people from the dead. Who can do these things, but God alone.
The Veil of the Perishing
Unfortunately, the world is full of people who do not believe that Jesus is God. Perhaps there are some in this room. As I have said before, the debate about Jesus of Nazareth as a historical figure does not exist. There is no legitimate historian that would argue that Jesus the man is a myth. There is just too much evidence. No, the question is not was there a Jesus, the question has always been, and always will be, is he God. And once again, this is how the world is split. Those who believe and those who don't believe. Which leads to the question, how does one come about believing that Jesus is God incarnate? Well, interestingly enough, it is all about seeing, just as Philip was asking.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:4. The question the Apostle Paul is answering is why don't people believe in Jesus. The answer he gives in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Everyone who does not believe that the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth is the image of God is blind. Satan, through the temptation that led to the fall of humanity, has cast a veil over their eyes. Every man is born into spiritual blindness. When they think of Jesus, they just see a carpenter, perhaps a teacher, maybe even a prophet, but they don't see God.
So the question is how is the veil lifted? Look at verse 5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
They way the veil is lifted is the same way that Jesus lifted it for his disciples. He proclaimed the truth. Jesus stood before Philip and spoke the truth about Jesus' divinity right to his face. The Apostle Paul adopted the same strategy, he proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord. And when Paul did this, when he shared the good news of Jesus Christ, something happened. Look at verse 6. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” When someone heard the gospel and believed, it was because God gave light. Light helps us see. What did they see? They saw the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” They were not like Moses, who saw the backside of God's goodness, they were able to look upon the face of Jesus Christ and see the radiance, the goodness, the full grace and full truth of God.
This is why some people believe and some people do not. For those who believe, God has lifted the veil and shinned light into their hearts. They were entirely passive, they merely received the grace of God, and responded the only way that made sense, to trust in Jesus. For those who do not believe, God has not yet revealed himself to them in Christ, and perhaps never will.
However, for those who have loved ones who are still in the dark, do not give up. Think about Philip, he was face to face with Jesus for three years before he finally got it. For James and Jude, they spent the first 1/3 of their lives living with Jesus before they believed. The theif on the cross had the light shine upon him as he hung upon a cross. For the apostle Paul, he considered himself to be an apostle “untimely born.” Earlier, I quoted 1 Timothy 1:17, a verse penned by Paul. The verse right before it says, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” We do not know who and when, but until we die, we do not give up proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus, for you never know when and where God's light will shine.